The Hunt for Search Engine Innovation, Part 1

This topic is one which greatly interests me, what is the future of search? Ive posted before at my disappointment with everyone’s desire to be Google and not better than Google. Through innovation comes change and I would like to think one of these categorise below represents the future of search engine evolution. Only problem is Im not sure which yet!!!

According to the metasearch engine GoshMe, there are more than 500,000 search engines. That’s more than one for every resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I dare you to search them all. If anyone will accomplish the task, it’s Charles Knight, a search engine optimizer who has made a name for himself publishing monthly lists of the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines.

I’ve attempted a number of grueling feats in my day. In college, I won a challenge to see who could eat the most Deadly Chocolate Sins, a rich, fudgy, warm brownie served at Applebee’s, and I subsequently learned that along with a sugar high, there’s also such thing as a sugar hangover. I am also one of few men who will admit to having endured watching nearly every episode of “The Real Housewives of the O.C.” (the things men do for love). The weekend I spent sorting through all of the Top 100 search engines wasn’t quite so demanding as brownie-eating or “Housewives”-watching, but it was up there.

With all these search engines, and I have no doubt that the 100 Mr. Knight compiled were truly among the best, I was mining them to explore where the real innovation lies. What aspects of all these engines will improve the search experience for users over the years ahead? Even if none of these are the next Google, Yahoo, or Windows Live Search, are there diamonds in the rough that can be polished and adapted into the major engines’ algorithms and results pages?

For the most part, the answer is no.

The engines on the Top 100 list can be segmented into a handful of categories, and those categories can be further divided based on which ones will have a low impact on innovation, and which ones will matter most the rest of the decade. This week, we’ll look at the low-impact categories, and then next week we’ll see which categories are more promising.

Low-Impact Engines

§ Clustering/graphic display: These engines organize search results in some sort of visual field. Quintura’s among the best of these, and it’s potentially useful for academics and brand managers, but I don’t get the benefit for general consumers. Gnod clusters results based on specific subjects, yet Amazon’s recommendations are usually more than sufficient.
§ Filtering based on categories/recommended keywords: This is one feature especially common in vertical search, but it’s also being used by other engines such as Factbites. If that’s the predominant feature, it’s not going to be incredibly useful, as it’s already being used by other engines, notably Ask.com and Windows Live Search.
§ Metasearch/aggregated search: These engines search multiple sites at once or individually. Dogpile, Mamma, and Goshme all are variations on the metasearch theme, while engines like FindForward allow more features for searching select sites one by one. Even if these engines are useful at times, Dogpile and its ilk are icons of the Web’s past, not its future.
§ User-ratings/voting: VMGO lets users rank search results. I’m skeptical of the longevity of this approach, as it’s too easily gamed and too biased toward early adopters. If an algorithm’s that good for natural rankings, voting won’t matter, though the whole idea of a Digg-based search engine might gain some fleeting buzz.
§ Q&A: These engines, like Lexxe, aim to give you direct answers to your questions. For the post part, the innovation here has already happened, as Yahoo Answers emerged as one of the company’s biggest success stories in recent years while Google Answers folded. One of my favorite entrants in the Top 100, Ask Vox, falls into the Q&A category. Built on the Yahoo Answers API, Vox is a talking avatar who answers your questions, and you can add in your own answers when she falls short. For added fun, Vox says on her MySpace page that she’s going out with the retired Ask.com butler Jeeves. If you ask her directly if she’s in a relationship, she’ll confirm the tryst, though the two-timer also says she’s single if you press her.

Even though these categories are low-impact, some of these engines are innovative in their own way. Quintura keeps evolving and grows more useful with each iteration, Goshme is awe-inspiring with its breadth, and Vox was so much fun, I shared her with every visitor to my office last week.

But enough playing around. Next week, we’ll look to the engines and categories that will fuel the future of search innovation.

The copyright war begins in earnest!

The war begins! Viacom file a $1 billion law suit against google for infingement of its copyrights through it Youtube property. Viacom also go one step further and accuse Youtube of deliberately avoiding doing anything to stop copyright infringement by its users in an attempt to earn revenues. Should be very interesting to see how this one pans out as it could set a precedent for the whole online video industry and if Viacom are successful everyone else will be sure to follow suit!

Viacom Slaps Google with $1B YouTube Lawsuit

Accusing YouTube of “massive intentional copyright infringement,” media giant Viacom filed a $1 billion lawsuit Tuesday against the video site and its parent Google, CNET reports. Some 160,000 clips of Viacom programming have been illegally available on YouTube and have been viewed more than 1.5 billion times, Viacom said. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and also seeks an injunction prohibiting Google and YouTube from further copyright infringement.”YouTube is a significant, for-profit organization that has built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others’ creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google. Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws,” Viacom said in a statement.”In fact, YouTube’s strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden – and high cost – of monitoring YouTube onto the victims of its infringement,” Viacom said in a statement.

Google Begins TV Ad Tests

They will take over the world one day! surely they cant be competitive if they are just buying the ad space and reselling with profit attached!?! I cant help but think this is just another example of google spreading their net without actually applying themselves to it. In my opinion they should concentrate on what they do best, rather than trying to enter every market which springs to mind.

Google has begun a test of buying and reselling television commercials, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal, reports Search Engine Land. The tests are apparently taking place in Concord, California and mimic the system Google put into place when it began selling print ad space. It buys time from the television station and then resells the spot time to one of its advertisers. That spot then appears within ordinary commercial breaks and appears no different to the viewer from any other commercial.
Advertisers secure their ad space through an auction system, but one that’s overseen by people and not an automated system, since it’s still early in the test period.This test phase is the first time that Google’s entry into the TV ad market has gone beyond statements of intent or in-house experimentation. Google has partnered with cable provider Astound Broadband for the test.

Mobile internet ads more popular than text campaigns

I am still not convinced on the impact mobile internet will have on the online world as the take up of its services are still very low. I am however willing to be persuaded it is the next big thing. according to recent articels 2007 is the year for take up and 2008 is the year for the boom, hold on to your seats!

Mobile internet usage is on the up, and a new survey finds that around a third of users would be prepared to view mobile web ads in exchange for free content.

The Online Publishers Association (OPA) surevy, entitled “Going Mobile: An International Study of Content Use and Advertising on the Mobile Web” involved 6,000 consumers in the U.S. and Western Europe. Of those that responded, 76 percent possessed devices with access to mobile internet yet only 32 percent actually used the service.
The OPA results found that consumers seem far happier to receive online ads than other mobile marketing techniques, such as text message campaigns. The allure of free content in exchange for viewing ad content attracted 34 percent of all respondents, with Europeans slightly keener at 37 percent.
“Consumers in every country are watching mobile ads and large numbers are being compelled to act,” said Pam Horan, president of the OPA. “This is a clear indication that the mobile Web is an effective advertising delivery platform and potentially valuable source of revenue.”
In comparison, a December, 2006, Forrester Inc. report found that nearly 80 percent of internet mobile users were annoyed just by the mere thought of internet advertising on their devices.

The Next Big Player in the Search Engine War!?!

Now this could be interesting! Wikipedia launching a search engine, but not only that, one which they want to be better than Google. I have been bugged for a long time at the search engines desire to be Google rather than be better than Google. Although Google are good at what they do, they are not perfect, somebody with the right backing and the right application could quite easily out do them in my opinion. On top of this wiki appear to be planning to incorporate some of their own philisophy of user approved and generated content into the project. Done correctly this could produce an innovative new payer in the search engine supremacy war, however it coud also just lead to another bit part player fighting for the scraps from Google’s table.

Wikipedia founder says to challenge Google, Yahoo
Fri Mar 9, 2007 5:38AM EST
TOKYO (Reuters) – The online collaboration responsible for Wikipedia plans to build a search engine to rival those of Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., the founder of the popular Internet encyclopaedia said on Thursday.
Wikia Inc., the commercial counterpart to the non-profit Wikipedia, is aiming to take as much as 5 percent of the lucrative Internet search market, Jimmy Wales said at a news conference in Tokyo.
“The idea that Google has some edge because they’ve got super-duper rocket scientists may be a little antiquated now,” he said.
Describing the two Internet firms as “black boxes” that won’t disclose how they rank search results, Wales said collaborative search technology could transform the power structure of the Internet.
Wales, a former futures trader who has become an evangelist for the free sharing of technology, said users could work together to improve search engines, just as Wikipedia users had tweaked and rewritten articles on the sprawling encyclopaedia.
The process of constant improvement would also make search technology less susceptible to spam, he said.
Founded in 2004 and now employing a staff of more than 30, Wikia hosts group publishing sites on a wide range of topics from psychology to the Muppets.
While Wikia gives away its tools free to users, the company requires that sites built with its resources link to Wikia.com, which makes money through advertising.
Using the same root software as Wikipedia, Wikia is likely eventually to carry more articles than its counterpart, Wales said.
Unlike the encyclopaedia, much of Wikia’s content is geared toward niche markets — a boon for readers obsessed with topics such as Star Wars films or trains.
Wikipedia currently has nearly 1.7 million articles in English alone, according to its Internet site.While Wales declined to give any earnings targets, he said the company had received a $4 million investment